Bay Area Wedding Photographer Gabriel Harber » Fun, Artistic, Joyful Photography that is Real and Full of Stories

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So much pork, and love, and goodness.  The two days after the wedding people packed up and started the long journey home.  A few friends and family members remained.  On Monday my sister, Sam from New York, Alex, Pepper (Alex’s mom), and I went on a crazy hike that I hadn’t realized I had been wanting to go on for years.  We hiked over cinder cone, granite boulders, river rocks, and sandy desert.

I got a little photo making in on Tuesday when I visited the family we met out there who were living out of their bus and tipi.  Had fun chatting with them and taking pictures.  Zelda was eager to get back to camp, but it was great to see how simply they lived and to watch the kids playing games with toy trucks and dirt.

The weather was so nice that we were tempted to stay through Thanksgiving, even though we had decided to spend the holiday at home for the first time in 7 years… and then the skies turned, and we figured it best to get out while we could.  We spent a much of the day Wednesday packing up our camp and the bits and pieces people had left behind.  We stopped by the lower springs to drop off some food with the tipi family.  The clouds were dropping fast, the wind was starting to blow, and a few drops of rain began to fall as we hit the road.  Our exhausted kids quickly fell asleep.  On the pass out of the valley snow was falling.  We spent the night in roadside motel in Bakersfield and drove directly to our friend Carli’s parents’ house in San Jose for Thanksgiving dinner.

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In the months/ weeks/ days leading up to the day of our wedding celebration, Loretta and I had good intentions of working on what we would say to one another and how we would structure our ceremony.  Before we left for our desert camping wedding adventure we chatted with people and did a bit of research.  But life is busy with two kids, and homeschooling, and work, and planning wedding stuff, and we came to realize that it might be best to sort it out in the days preceding the wedding when were out in the tranquility of the desert.  Once we got to Saline Valley, our full lives kept being full.  We had some great talks soaking in the tubs and discussions while sitting in the shade of the van, and in the end, it came together from bits of many conversations and experiences and solidified at last minute into a somewhat cohesive whole idea.  We scouted wedding ceremony spots the day before the wedding with our good friend and officiant, Alex, and wrote a rough draft of our ceremony.  We finished our final draft about 15 minutes before the ceremony began.  What we wanted most was to celebrate love in the desert with lots of food and kids and hot spring soaking with some of our favorite people in the world.  The journey into and the experiences of being in Saline Valley acted as a great basis for the story of our love and relationship.

On the day of our wedding, the fighter jets which normally are quiet on the weekends, gave us an incredible show, making several low passes over our camp.  Loretta’s niece and friend did the bouquet and boutonnieres, and her sister, Andrea, did her makeup.  Her sister, Alanna, took charge of making sure all the carnitas and other food was heated up, laid out, and ready to eat once we finished the ceremony.  Julia (another sister) and her boyfriend Dillon put on a great firework display.  Everyone pitched in where they could.  It was a true community wedding.

The images below are mostly Hardy Wilson’s.  Noel Spirandelli has a few sprinkled in and there are a few other contributors as well.  I took a handful of the pre wedding images.

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Each year I trek into the desert with my partner, Loretta, and our kids for week and a half of eating, soaking, and star watching in a Northern portion of Death Valley National Park called Saline Valley.  This year we decided to make the already adventurous trip an even greater adventure.  We decided we would get married out there, and planned/ unplanned a free form campout wedding in one of the more difficult places to get to in California.  I am going to break this personal blog post into three parts: before, the day of the wedding, and after.

On a particularly magnificent hike in Saline Valley in November of 2014, we decided that after two kids and and a several year engagement, that we would have a wedding celebration there in the desert.  We would invite friends and family and let the event unfold in its own way.  At the core, was a desire to share the beautiful place that we love with our friends and family and to publicly affirm and declare our love.  We invited who we wanted and didn’t worry so much about numbers or shoulds.  When you plan a wedding in far out destination, there is a certain degree of self selection that happens.  While we were stoked to be doing things the way we wanted in the place that we loved, there was some sadness knowing that some of our family members would not be able to make the journey.  Our farthest guest, my good friend Sam, flew out from New York, supplied up at Walmart, and arrived in a rented sedan.  He had also made our wedding rings which makes them extra special.  My buddy from high school flew into San Francisco from Colorado and drove in with his dad.  The road into the valley is not an easy one, and nobody arrived without a story.  When people ask how long it takes to get to Saline Valley, I often say, “we don’t count the hours.”

Loretta and I started thinking seriously about our wedding attire a couple months before the date.  We made a very spur of the moment stop by the shop of the talented clothing designer, Cari Borja.  I had done a trade with her some years before, and finally found the perfect moment to cash in.  We ended up walking out with a hooded burgundy wedding dress (which I did the alterations on) and a fleece polka dotted coat.  A few days before we left, I picked through my closet and found my finest polyester suit, vintage tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and well worn cowboy boots.  Loretta outfitted the kids with some awesome hand-me-downs.

Flowers were put together by friends and family from borrowed and found botanicals.

Photography was pieced together from friends and family and myself.  The majority of the wedding day images were created by my good friend and super talented photographer, Hardy Wilson.  His buddy Noel Spirandelli got some great shots as well.

We sourced vintage cloth napkins from ebay and local thrift stores which we had screen printed with designs created by our kids.  We gave these napkins out as gifts to our guests.

Gabriel Pics_0019 Cooking in two pressure cookers with a recipe I created from several different sources, I made 30 plus pounds of carnitas before we left Oakland.  I packed the cooked meat in empty yogurt containers and froze it.  Loretta’s sister and boyfriend brought the carnitas along with a fire pit, some boxes of wood, and a case of wine.

Gabriel Pics_0012Gabriel Pics_0008Gabriel Pics_0010We got a late start on Sunday, November 15th.  We had been packing, cooking, and preparing for our adventure for some time, but I had shot a wedding the day before and was moving slowly on Sunday morning, and it always takes longer than you think to get totally packed and out of the house for a big trip.  We left in the late afternoon and I drove until about 2:30 in the morning.  We talked about ideas of marriage, ceremony, and life, as our kids slept in the back of the van, lightning lit up the sky, and the wind howled outside.  We stopped for a bit of sleep at a motel in Olancha, and met up with our friends Carli and Mark had left the Bay Area a few hours before us and were already there.  We woke, ate some greasy diner food and began our journey into Saline Valley.  It was windy and cold.

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We arrived at the hot springs on Monday afternoon.  I obsessed about where the van should be parked, where people would camp, and what the layout of the space should look like.  The wind was still blowing which didn’t help things, but eventually we got situated and unpacked and set up camp.  Thankfully the wind stopped within a day of our arrival and the weather stayed beautiful for nearly the entire remainder of our trip.  We quickly settled into a routine of eating, soaking, and kid wrangling.  A steady stream of friends and family trickled in each day.  On Thursday night, my buddy Sam made an epic and bottomless pot of soup which fed everyone in camp and each new arrival.  On Friday night we made 17 pizzas.  Loretta’s sister, Julia, brought our dog Winnie.  She is a desert veteran, but we have left her at home for the last couple of years because the terrain is so rough on her paws.

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Pizza!  Maurice manning the coals while I make shape the pies.Sam Pics_0001
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